TEOFIL PANČIĆ: Cultural Identity of Vojvodina

02 Apr 2008

Belgrade’s media have their correspondents from Novi Sad and other bigger cities, reporting on, I don’t know, the…

Teofil PančićBelgrade’s media have their correspondents from Novi Sad and other bigger cities, reporting on, I don’t know, there and there happened this and this, here and there happened this or that. However, all is treated as a sort of almost, how to say, communal matter, there is no any serious approach, it is not treated as something that somebody from here would seriously consider, write the serious analytical texts and make serious television or radio reports but all is only reduced to the level of reports and, if it is necessary to treat something at the broader level then we send a man from Belgrade who, I would say, has generally no idea where he/she is nor whom to talk with nor is he/she able to grasp some things in two minutes.

Let’s straight away, from the beginning, demystify one thing – well … our kind organizers included approximately this theme for my lecture, expecting of me to, in the meantime, slightly reduce and make the theme more precise but, being engaged in all sort of different things, I haven’t done it, so that it is still “Cultural Identity of Vojvodina”. I hold that it would be the best for this discussion – because I insist on discussion as I am not a professor, not a lecturer, I don’t plan to make this speech too long because I am not a man of theory but a man of practice – to wit, I think that it should be understood, before all, in the context of what seems to me a rather great problem when we speak about the issue of reporting on Vojvodina, when it is the issue of writing and, if you want, also a perception of Vojvodina, and this even relates to Vojvodina itself, to wit, when it is the issue of Vojvodina’s media, let alone when it is the issue of the media reporting on Vojvodina from, so to say, outside. Of course, in the case of this country, I think primarily about the so-called capital’s media, Belgrade’s media, which frequently write about Vojvodina obviously not knowing any or almost any facts and nothing about the complex structure, what Vojvodina means at all – to them Vojvodina means let’s say this: goulash, paprikash/stew, tamburitza players, drawl and here just about it ends … and no landscape, of course, as highlanders and those from the mountainous regions would say. Now, have we at all, as people working in more or less some of Vojvodina’s media, have we done enough not to be so and do we understand, to paraphrase Raymond Carver, what we are speaking about when we speak about Vojvodina. Hence, there is a sort of, how to put it, a sort of stereotype – not that stereotypes should necessary have a negative determinant, they can have a positive one as well – there is a sort of stereotype about Vojvodina that is more or less generally adopted and is also dominant in some media reports on Vojvodina, in perception of Vojvodina and perception of the situation in Vojvodina. It amounts to the notion that there, in Vojvodina, we have a sort of multiculturalism for which we are not exactly certain what it is about and how it is expressed, but we do know that it is somewhere there and that it is being mentioned. There is a specific style of life that somewhat differs from the style of life in other parts of the country and there is, due to it, also a specific political and social scene, which is somehow more complicated than one we have in the rest of country; apart from all these factors that can be found everywhere, there are also some specific, regional, minority political subjects, from political parties via non-government organizations, civic associations etc, and there are, of course, the media in the minority languages as well as the regional media that, in a degree, contribute to the complexity of this picture. However, I wouldn’t say, as I follow very carefully the reports on these particularities, I wouldn’t say that we understand very much what is actually going on. You’ll often hear – I quote the example, you see, because to me it was a particularly characteristic one – some two or three years ago, when the attention was increased due to some inter-ethnical incidents, especially at north of Vojvodina, and then something was kicked off, some big story, you remember, there was a lot about internationalization of the issue and then it created a great stir in Belgrade, and then a very prominent Belgrade’s weekly brought a report from Subotica and the surroundings.
I read that article and I was absolutely fascinated that the journalist who wrote it didn’t managed even to write correctly one single name of people she had spoken to, neither she wrote correctly a single name of villages she mentioned, she got it all wrong and absolutely, at the most elemental factual level, her article was scandalous. And I repeat, this article wasn’t published in a tabloid but in a renowned weekly. It is not exception at all. This is the consequence of what? It is easy to say – well this is the consequence of that, I think, arrogance of the capital city, etc. Of course it is also that but, on the other side, it seems that Vojvodina itself hasn’t sufficiently … the people working in the media, as well as some intellectuals, if you want, the infrastructure of Vojvodina, the academic structure, hasn’t sufficiently, you see, forced on a more complex, more intricate story on what is Vojvodina, why in Vojvodina some things are so essential and so oversensitive, why some things cannot be done in a certain way as, I don’t know, are done in Kragujevac. Actually here, one can say, the story is being reduced to what the media at all serve from here, what passes through a filter of sort and enters one grey media picture. Actually it can be said that everything is restricted to the most elemental factual reporting.
Thus, Belgrade’s media have their correspondents in Novi Sad and other greater cities, who report that, I don’t know, here or there happened this and that, that here and there happen that or this. However, this is treated as a sort of almost, how to say, communal matters, there is no any serious approach, it is not treated as something that somebody from here will seriously consider, write serious analytical texts and make television or radio reports about but it is exclusively restricted to the level of report and if it is necessary to do something on a broader level we shall then send someone from Belgrade who, as I said, generally has no idea where he/she has arrived nor whom to talk with, nor he/she can in two minutes understand some things. It is like it was, you remember, during the last wars, when our people frequently complained – ‘how it is possible, someone comes from the other side of the world and now he/she will in a week gather up all threads; he/she doesn’t understand this, and hasn’t taken this into consideration’ – this same thing happens to us, the same things happen when you try, when looking from some macro-plan down to a micro-environment, at its specific problems, and actually, in the best case, even if you have the best possible intentions, all you can manage is just to scratch surface and do something that will be, so to say, perhaps a sensation for two or three days, and will not actually go further form that. We have there an enormous problem. Here, simply as someone who follows all these media, I can say that, if I now, for instance, isolate and for a month monitor, collect, systematize only texts brought by Belgrade’s media about some specific political, social and other problems, phenomena, challenges etc. present in Vojvodina’s society, I might say about these texts that they are: 1) very rare , b) very bad, very superficial, and c) very common, but very wrong and even, in some media, also intentionally bad intoned.
Now, why has it come to this that Vojvodina itself (of course I speak about Vojvodina’s media), why has it come that Vojvodina cannot actually create a picture about itself that will be dominant in Vojvodina itself let alone to penetrate outside it. What I want to say is that I have impression that the majority of citizens in Vojvodina, when they want to get information about what’s going on they primarily turn to some Belgrade’s televisions and read some Belgrade’s newspapers; only if it is the issue of something really local, something how to say, of communal nature, you see, then they will turn to the media here, somewhere in their surroundings. How has it happened that Vojvodina, in other words, has become in the sense of the media coverage and not only the media, the second-rate province? And has it been necessary, could it have been different? And can it still be different at all? It looks to me that this is, among other things, on one side the result of the nature of this society. Serbia is, at least from the end of the eighties, a distinctly centralized society. Centralized in a way you can hardly find anywhere else in Europe. It is really a phenomenon. You know very well that even a local self-ruling community cannot buy two ball-point pens without obtaining a sort of written approval from some ministry from Belgrade. Hence, this is, on one side, a result of this centralization and the centralization of power and the centralization of power is also centralization of money, of resources of every possible nature. On the other side, I think that it is, somehow, the consequence of a sort of lack of ambition and also of Vojvodina’s media scene. Hence, it looks somehow … as if it has agreed to this subordinate position, to be a sort of service to the so-called big media or, if making some media of its own, it as if agree that these media actually will cover, let’s say, very … that their coverage is of a very short range in the geographic sense, in the sense of circulation, in whatever sense you want, that their coverage doesn’t go beyond limits of local newspapers or, in the best case, of its regional boundaries. So, I might say that there is just one – I cannot remember any other – that there is just one single exception in this sense and this is an absolute paradox – the media empire of Robert Čoban – hence a man who makes hyper-commercial, show business etc. newspapers for which I, personally, have absolutely no any interest and which I don’t like to read, I mean it’s a totally another world. What I want to say is that he launched his market expansion not with intent to be the first in Novi Sad but to win the Serbian market and in this he has succeeded in a great measure. His editions, a billion of them I’d say, I don’t know, are actually very … he takes a very important part of the market cake of the whole Republic of Serbia and really also of some ex-Yu surroundings in such a measure that it proves that such things don’t need to be produced only in Belgrade, that such things can be as well made in Novi Sad or wherever. Hence what it is necessary is to dare, it is necessary, of course, to have certain human, financial and I don’t know which resources or, in this or that way, simply create them, you see, and this is one of ways. It means that one can learn even from someone you wouldn’t perhaps expect to learn from and from such people one can learn something. To me, somehow, it looks that the main problem is that actually, when you are in the groove (and this groove lasts 15 – 20 years) you will hardly manage to get out of this, quite hardly. I tell you, you cannot expect to understand what is the complexity and particularity of Vojvodina if nothing is being written, reported, analyzed etc. about it in the way that will be competent, serious, based on a serious approach to the facts and at the same time as well as at grassroots, at an insider level so to say, hence to come from here but to write about local problems in the way that will be clear to everyone able to follow a more complex text. This is amazingly rare in all media including also Novi Sad’s media, I insist on this. It is interesting that you will be often forced to turn to know more about things that happen here and are of concern to everyone here, that you will find more extensive and, if perhaps not sufficiently good, still more ambitious texts in some Belgrade’s dailies for instance or, at least, the regional editions of Belgrade’s newspapers, than you will be informed by newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television stations in Novi Sad and in other cities in Vojvodina …
On the other side, it looks to me that we, perhaps, in difference to some (past) time that I, somehow, remember from time when I was a kid (they, sure, had some other limitations, before all ideological, not at all naïve limitations, we should not be misled regarding it), it seems to me that the great problem here is that we have here a unique fragmentation of Vojvodina. This, among other things, means also an ethnical fragmentation of the picture about Vojvodina. One picture has the so-called majority within Vojvodina, another picture has the majority outside Vojvodina, the third picture and then the fourth, the fifth, the tenth, are the pictures that have minorities, ethnical, linguistic, before all these two, each within its own circle that makes some own words, some own meanings that survive only within that same circle and don’t penetrate at all outside it. What ‘fascinates’ me, quotation marks mind, which means in the negative sense, as from the nineties on, how is it possible that, let’s say, nobody has thought about or that nobody has done anything serious since the nineties, when, let’s say, there was, I don’t know … Magyar Szó was then, given the circumstances, a very liberal newspapers, I think much more liberal than the Province’s newspapers in the Serbian language – and there was time of these ethnical tensions because, as a matter of fact, then when ruled a sort of that Serbian nationalism as the dominant ideological woof of Milošević’s regime – how is it possible that nobody got the idea to, for example, make a sort of weekly digest of Magyar Szó in Serbian language that would simply, to avoid ‘dead telephones’, which would present in words of these same Vojvodina’s Hungarian journalists, intellectuals, writers, scientists, what we would call, well, academicians, the problems of Vojvodina’s Hungarian society in the Serbian language, hence in the language which is a sort of lingua franca in this part of the world (simply, regardless if we want it or not, this is so). No! Simply, everyone was closed within its own world of a sort, in this world they produced certain meanings but didn’t feel any need or didn’t see any way how to talk about it, to get out from some imaginary boundaries and to establish a sort of dialogue with others.
In this way we actually come to the fact that what we call the identity of Vojvodina is essentially fragmentized. We come to emergence of something that everybody will principally disapprove of and say that it is not good – to the phenomenon of parallel societies, to the phenomenon of some parallel co-existence, in which people … everyone will know only own language, everyone will go only to their cafes, everyone will visit only their own concerts or theater performances, simply, people will not live together but each in their own ghetto. If this happens, and we are well on the road to this, then it is senseless to speak afterwards about Vojvodina’s identity, then there is no identity of Vojvodina, it simply doesn’t exist – then there are some identities that actually don’t brush or touch, somewhere they pass one by another, they somehow co-exist in a way; here, it is nice there is no any brush in some ugly sense, that there is no any skirmish, but actually there is no any inter-communication and let alone, God forbid!, some influence and something that they may be accepting one from another, something they alone lack (because you know, you can never have everything, always someone else knows, sees, feels, understands something that you are simply not given and what you can learn from another, simply to enter one world that hitherto has not been sufficiently known to you). I think that it is now, let’s say, a great danger that this kind of Vojvodina’s identity actually somewhere … well now, to make it clear, naturally that this doesn’t mean that everything with an ethnical sign automatically endangers Vojvodina’s identity. Vojvodina’s identity is not an abstract, how to say, non-ethnical category that exists in a vacuum, in a void, outside of everything else. Of course it doesn’t! Moreover, I personally oppose this assertion because it makes the job of nationalists easier, because then nationalists will say: – Now do you say that I must be of a Vojvodina nationality, it means I mustn’t be a Serb, I mustn’t be a Hungarian, I mustn’t be a Slovakian! – certainly I will not say that! Certainly not! And certainly the fact that someone’s ethnicity, the fact that someone speaks his own language, that someone wants to advance and be what is something specific within one-language culture or within one distinct tradition – all these, as such, is nothing disputable at all. It becomes disputable in the moment when it is make absolute and becomes the reason, justification, excuse or call it what you want, for a sort of an implicit or explicit separation from another or, even, which happens in the case of certain nationalist aspirations of the majority, that it becomes a pretext to a sort of suppressing and ghettoizing of every minority culture – that it, just being minority, should be fully marginalized or even suspected, that it would be the best not to have them at all, isn’t it, and if only we all speak the Serbian “so that the whole world can understand us”. It means that these are all the natural consequences, as we actually, somewhere, it looks to me, have allowed that tendency, present since the end of the eighties, to win. Actually, it has been since the beginning one tendency to show that this complex identity of Vojvodina as such – this is not a phrase though many times we repeat it as a phrase – hence, this that makes Vojvodina so rich, to show it as a problem, to show it as something that makes life of people difficult, something that complicates life of people, something that … you know, that evil seed absolutely amazes me, to what measure it can go. Probably at least some of you know that there is a band in Subotica performing a song “Teshik” – and now, the boy, the band’s frontman, explains, now it is, you see, the problem that sellers first say: “teshik” (Slovakian) and then “please” (Serbian). All my life I go to Subotica and I have never realized that this is a problem. However, if you wish something to be a problem, you will always find the most incredible reason to find a problem, even that someone says, God forbid!: “teshik, please”. I want to say, these things are those holes, this is, when you have once allowed this sort of intentionally generated over-sensibility, this sort of an intentionally generated feeling of being endangered in a way – and as the minority can be endangered so can be the majority … (hence you can easily persuade the majority community that it is endangered, it is like being endangered as a white in America, this also happens, these are typical racist theses – white men are endangered by blacks, Latin Americans, emigrants) – hence, you don’t necessary belong to minority to make someone in your community to promote the idea of being endangered, not to speak about the most drastic examples: you had, you see, Hitlerism, which emerged because the Germans were endangered in Germany, hence the Germans that made 90 percent or I don’t know what percent of population in Germany, and now they were endangered by, I don’t know, several hundred thousands Jews… Hence, no limit here, the sky is limit.
It seems to me that, and with this I more or less finish what I think is necessary to say as a sort of introduction, it seems to me that – I insist, before all, on the media scene because I am a media man and you are the media people – we can speak in thousands ways about Vojvodina’s identity, but I think that what you are mostly interested for is primarily – that we, ourselves, have failed, somewhere, and that we, ourselves, often don’t understand what is happening to us and don’t perceive it in the serious way. If we don’t perceive and if we do perceive but don’t know, don’t want or cannot put it down on paper, present it before cameras or microphones, we cannot then expect from the public that consumes these media, as Vojvodina’s so the broader public, nor we can expect from political elites nor anyone else to understand what we alone either don’t understand or don’t feel needed to be treated in an adequate way, or to show that to people that listen to, watch or read what we do. So, this is all from me for this introduction, and please feels free to ask me, to say, to notice, to discuss or whatever you want to. So ask, please.

Question (attendee): I have one question. I am interested what do you think about the impact of migrations during the nineties from Krajina etc, in what measure this has caused the change of identity of Vojvodina and influences today’s situation?

(T. Pančić): Certainly, its influence is great. When we speak about this, there are two approaches which are, in my opinion, very dangerous and should be avoided. One is to deny it and say: – No way, it has no any impact, not at all, this hasn’t happened, nonsense. This means closing your eyes before reality. Nowhere, not in any country, you cannot expect a huge percent of people, compared with the total number of inhabitants, leaves and another people come, and this not to be reflected on the picture of that society, on a cultural map of one space. Another danger is to recognize it but make it absolute in a negative way that would lead you to a sort of racism, treating all people who have arrived from somewhere as a sort of… we here, the natives, we are wonderful, beautiful, phenomenal and these newcomers are evil, wild, repulsive, hordes, they make us primitive, they now, see, pollute our cities, all of them are fascists … Naturally that this approach is, put it mildly, wrong. Simply, this issue should be realistically appraised. The fact is that in this space of Vojvodina a huge number of people have moved in who are, to put it mildly, very frustrated whether by their own experiences or … people came from the war caught regions or regions that in this or that way were caught in it and felt the consequences of wars in the nineties. Now, another thing is whether they have and how much they participated in that, how much they, as citizens, are simply co-responsible for that – because, you know, if there breaks out a civil war in one country, the citizens of that country can not be absolved from responsibility. I think, the civil war is the war of citizens, isn’t it? But, let’s put it aside for the moment. So it is the fact that a huge mass of people have arrived, enraged, frustrated etc. people who have, if nothing else, some war biography as a sort of excuse: – See, I suffered, I was … so here I will vent my fury on somebody, what one has to teach me in this way, what in that way, now I’m going to enter somebody’s house, they took my house, etc. This is the problem that nobody here wants to confront; it is simply not politically correct to speak about it. Not politically correct! It is something that is almost not spoken about, because people are frightened – I say, they fear with reason this other extreme, to show towards these people a sort of, so to say, racist, chauvinist attitude – but they exaggerate in this justified fear and just keep their eyes shut. Of course this is the problem and this is problem everywhere in the world. And this sort of, I would say, quasi-leftist closing of eyes before the problem sooner or later comes for payment. I will give you a simple example from the so-called great world, from the West: For a long time, first of all some liberal and democratic leftists at the West were closing their eyes before the phenomenon i.e. to the western metropolises arrived very many people from, let’s say, the countries in which dominates a sort of Islamic fundamentalism and who were, simply, in the cultural sense, not ready, even were very hostile towards what today is accepted at the West as normal, starting from the fact that women live free, that they don’t need to ask permit from their father or brother to marry, to go out, that they can dress as they like, that they can have fun, drink alcohol, to, I don’t know, gay population and everything else, which is from their perspective something absolutely unacceptable. So, for a long time it was something that was not spoken about because, if you would mention facts like that, you were immediately called a racist, someone with anti-Islamic feelings, which is simply nonsense. And in this way this topic was served on the plate to rightists, the extreme Right because only the extreme Right was speaking about these clashes, clashes that are, simply, cultural. These are not clashes because someone is black, white, brown, these clashes are cultural, these are clashes between the worlds, which would erupt even in the case that the process went vice versa. Just imagine a million Englishmen settling in Pakistan! Or in Serbia, after all! Don’t tell me that there wouldn’t be that sort of clashes between the worlds! So, nothing could be heard about this and then suddenly, when all the mess had started, then September 11th, then the murder in Holland, etc. then people realized suddenly that something was wrong there, and then, not ready for it, often resorted to other extremes and began looking on all Moslems as potential terrorists, as if every Arab or a Pakistani only dreams about blowing off to pieces the Tower Bridge – and all this actually because they had not been prepared in a normal, rational way that cultural legacy is the essential part of someone’s identity and that when one comes to live in a different world, absolutely in a different way from one taught all life before that, then this had to be in some way overcome, so to say, simply a man should be given the opportunity to understand that there, in the country he had come to live, that there are some other rules are respected. This doesn’t mean that we should say: – You’re backward, bloody savage who now must learn how to live. This only has counter-effect, this is simply not fair. But one should say: – Sorry, this is England, this is not Pakistan, here we have different rules and you are welcome to live as you think you should, but you have to understand that other people, starting from your own daughter to some stranger you see in the street, are not obliged, not in this society, they are not obliged to follow your views, but live as they wish. I think that such thing – to return to our subject – I think that such thing is very important here as well. Hence, you respect everyone’s frustration, you respect everyone’s pain, you respect everyone’s resentment, but, sorry, this is Vojvodina. Here we speak, in the street, at market, in buses, wherever one wants, we speak here the Serbian, and the Slovakian, and the Romany, and the Hungarian and so on, and there is none who wants to live in Vojvodina and who is, how to say, authorized not to acknowledge this rule of an elemental civilized living in an environment as this is.
We must, you know, especially when this is the issue, we must understand that people often have no such kind of experience because, regardless of the fact that people, for instance, often come from some regions which are also multi-ethnical, multi-confessional, as it is, let’s say, Bosnia and Herzegovina, that it is not multi-lingual and that they, for example, are not used to it. Now the question is – will Vojvodina cease to be multilingual for the sake of them or they will get used to this fact. I think that the second is much better, isn’t it? Simply, society must first acknowledge this problem, must admit it to itself, without hysterics, without instigating intolerance on any side, but must first admit it to itself. And we here don’t acknowledge this problem because we are burdened with ethno-principle: as, this is Serbia, and as they are Serbs, then no problem, then everything is all right. Well, it is not right! Because, it is different when a Pakistani comes to England, it is other state and other ethos… So no, I don’t think it is right. It is not right because people all come from, they can be hundred times Serbs, but they come from another context, from one (in a measure, not fully, of course) different cultural woof and some things simply should be overcome in this or that way.
After all, mind, this doesn’t happen for the first time in Vojvodina. We know that there was colonization also after the First and the Second World Wars, many of us are descendents of these colonizers, but it was always somehow pushed under the carpet. You know what is the consequence of these pushing under the carpet? The consequence is that as I know, let’s say, that in the village in which my father grew up, and in which there were, to say, one half of the Serbs were natives and another half of the Serbs were newcomers, meaning both are the Serbs and, it means, there is no any ethnical clashes, but in that village, even today, 50 years later, there is a silent division (it is not now, I don’t know, at what level, but even today there is a sort of silent division): today every local inhabitant knows which is a native’s house and which colonist’s, so it means after 50-60 years; generations grew that don’t remember at all that old homeland of their parents, but even today it is known who is who. And this is just the consequence of the problems that were officially declared as being non-existent.

Question (attendee): I would like to speak about “News” in the Ruthenian, on the second channel, which is identical with “News” in Serbian. Then the broadcasting of such news is quite unnecessary. They don’t cover the Ruthenian ethnic community at all. Of printed media, “Ruske Slovo” has topics that are of interest only for pensioners, though it is intended for all.

Teofil: Yes, it is always so with us, among other things it is the problem of a sort of quality. Simply, Ruski Krstur is larger town, practically exclusively Ruthenian, it is a sort of center and there … it is the same as with, for example, the Hungarians in Novi Sad and Hungarians in Kanjiža … A Hungarian who lives in Novi Sad is simply surrounded with other nationalities you see, how to say, because the majority of inhabitants of Novi Sad are not Hungarians, and a Hungarian who lives in Kanjiža is in surroundings that are Hungarian, will have no so much contact with, with … its is something that is simple in itself, one naturally given circumstance in micro-environment and it doesn’t need to be negative, nothing has to be disputable.

Comment (attendee): But it is question of a closed community!

Teofil: So I say, it is a sort of, it is also a phenomenon that is not specific only for our regions, which is a sort of self-closure of minority communities that, in one moment, simply imitate this principle of the majority. And as the majority is closing itself into some exclusive limits, thus they too, due to a sort of feeling, perhaps, that their identity is more at target, by being a minority, they attempt in a way to close themselves into their own world.
And regarding your examples of the media in the Ruthenian language, it is here a great problem. Before all, to make it clear, the same is with the media in the Serbian language – they publish the agency news, then these published news become broadcast news on the state television, then these broadcast TV news are again published and at the end we are in a closed circle. This is the easiest, isn’t it … and when you have all this published and broadcast in other languages, then really we have an objective question whether journalists who work there (because journalist is the one to make news and it is not one who knows how to transmit them) or there are only some technical staff like … translators, you know – translating news from the Serbian into Ruthenian and let it be published or broadcast. If so, let’s define it so and to say that we don’t need programs in minority languages, except in that elemental-technical sense.

Question (attendee): I would like to keep on these problems. There (Ruski Krstur) I went to school for four years and what I noticed was that some people would not have, that they refused, to learn Serbian. OK: speak in your house free as you want to, and in your village speak as you wan to, but how will you, when you enroll in faculty where there are no Ruthenians, for example, to study chemistry? Similar happens in Subotica. Some people, especially youth and especially elderly people refuse, they don’t want to learn language. (Teofil asks her which language but the Serbian she speaks and she says the Ruthenian). OK, they don’t want to speak it, but should know it.

Teofil: Actually, this is the question of understanding some our values, elemental values. You said – and it is actually the key of discussion – the Serbian language is the official language and what one has to do there … The Serbian language is the official at the level of state. At the level of Subotica, the official language is the Hungarian. Thus, if you look for a job in Leskovac, nobody would ask you if you speak Hungarian, but you don’t look for a job in Leskovac, but you look for it in Subotica. It means, pardon me, it is the same as you don’t need to know Serbian if you look for a job in Krakow, because in Krakow, simply, there is no reason at all to know Serbian. However, in Belgrade for example, you must know Serbian, and it would be expected that in Subotica you speak both the Serbian and the Hungarian because it is something … approximately a half of inhabitants speaks Serbian or Croatian and a half speaks the Hungarian and it is quite logical that, if your job is to work directly with people, with customers, simply communicate with people – because I don’t believe you would be asked what language you speak if you arrange some elements for a sort of plaything – but if your job assumes a direct communication with people, it is an elemental, if nothing else, economic interest, it is not the matter of some high politics – hence, economic interest of employer, whether it is the state, the local self-management or if it is a private employer working I don’t know what, it doesn’t make difference. The elemental interest of the employer is that his or her worker speaks both languages not only official ones but spoken in the certain area. You may think that you are discriminated when somebody requires from you to know one language, it is only the consequence that you haven’t clarified these notions but simply starting from this – I live in the state of Serbia and as I live in the state of Serbia, the knowledge of Serbian language will suffice it!

Transcript of speech/discussion from the seminar “Reporting On Vojvodina” organized by the Independent Journalists’ Association in Vojvodina. The seminar was held in Hotel Božić, in Beška, December 21st, 22nd and 23rd, 2007, with support of the National Endowment for Democracy Foundation.

Teofil Pančić is journalist and a writer, the columnist of the Vreme Weekly.

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